Return from Mauritania

Hi everyone! I’m back from Mauritania, which was quite a busy and fantastic experience. It was a whirlwind trip because while I spent nine days in country, they were very intense, long workdays. But it was all worth it!

As I explained in my initial post, I had a couple main objectives for this trip. The first was to work with a local consultant and the Mauritanian program team to design the baseline evaluation for the new Barkeol Nutrition and Economic Recovery (BANER) project. We worked together to design the methods and tools to be used in the process, including a quantitative survey and a qualitative assessment that involves focus group discussions and individual interviews with key people in the local communities. My role was to ensure attention to gender throughout the process and help develop processes to capture additional data around gender-specific needs that will affect our program design and implementation. For several days, I worked intensely with the team to design the tools and train the data collectors on how to use them. They are now in the field collecting the data, and I’m looking forward to reviewing the results!

My other objective was to conduct a gender training with the project staff of both the Resilience-Building for Pastoralist Communities in Trarza and Barkeol Nutrition and Economic Recovery (BANER) programs. These staff are amazing! They are specialists in nutrition, health, agriculture, and finance who are working in some of the driest and most remote parts of Mauritania to build community knowledge and good practice to reduce malnutrition and promote better health and food security. They are already showing great success because they are innovative and responsive to the needs of their communities. Together we worked on gender concepts and practical tools and methods for making sure that all members of a community are included in these processes and that they can work with communities to identify the different needs and priorities of different social groups. We worked on customizing activities and trainings to ensure that different needs are met and promoting communication within and among families and different community groups.

I was thrilled at the end of the training that many of the staff noted how much they appreciated the practical approaches that we worked on. Another of the highlights was during the closing session when a staff member said how much she enjoyed my participatory teaching style. She noted that she very much preferred this way of learning because it kept them engaged and that they drew out learning from themselves. (Yes!!) They told me that they are eager to receive copies of the materials as well as additional resources so that they can now take these methods into the communities where they are working. Many of them are already planning to train local community leaders and community groups in gender concepts and in other inclusive assessment and planning methods. A wonderful result!

Because we were so busy, I didn’t have a lot of down time for sight-seeing. And sadly, I wasn’t able to travel with them to the areas where we are conducting these activities — not only are they very far away, but I am not currently allowed to travel to those parts of the country due to security concerns. However, they have invited me back and we’re all hoping that I can return before too long to see the progress our staff and communities have made and meet more of our local partners and community groups.

I was able to take a driving tour of the city and capture some photos of the training, so I’m providing a link to the photo album below. I hope you enjoy!

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Link to Mauritania Flickr Photo Album